By: Friedrich Seiltgen
The XM-134 Minigun was designed by General Electric as a smaller version of the M61A1 Gatling gun. The U.S. procured more than 10,000 units of this weapon during the Vietnam War, and it has remained in production since 1962!
The “Minigun” is a six-barrel, caliber .308, Gatling gun capable of a sustained rate of fire of 2,000 to 8,000 rounds per minute. Originally mounted on the USAF AC-47 gunship or “Puff the Magic Dragon” during the Vietnam War, it is still in service with U.S. military units today.
With the U.S. Air Force, it’s employed in the HH-60 rescue helicopters used by Pararescue Units to pick up pilots shot down in combat. It’s used on Navy ships, and it’s with SEALs on their Swift Boats. It also has a place on armored vehicles and helicopters used by the U.S. Army.
The Gatling Gun
The great-grandfather of today’s XM134 is, of course, Richard Gatling’s hand-cranked Gatling Gun. Designed in 1861, Gatling’s model 1881 used a magazine loaded on top with two rows of 45-70 cartridges. This allowed the gunner to load one side of the magazine, while simultaneously firing rounds from the other side.
With a cyclic rate of 200 rounds per minute, the Gatling Gun was a giant leap in weapons technology. The Gatling Gun saw limited service in the Civil War, when 12 guns were personally purchased by union commanders and used during the Battle of Petersburg, Virginia. The Gatling Gun was purchased by many foreign forces and was used later in the Zulu War and many other conflicts.
The legend of the Minigun lives on. It’s been featured in movies such as the Green Berets, Predator, Terminator 2, Blackhawk Down, the Fast & Furious 7 video game, and as one of Mr. Chow’s party favors in The Hangover 3.
The use of the handheld minigun, while cool, made me chuckle when I saw it. As a former USAF F-4 weapons loader, I had the opportunity to work on the minigun’s big brother, the M61A1 20mm Gatling gun, as well as the 30mm gun pod. For any of these guns to work, you need electricity, and even with the slower cyclic rate for the movies, you’re gonna need lots and lots of ammo!
The current version of the Minigun produced by Dillon Aero is tough to beat. Reloaders everywhere know Dillon as a manufacturer of reloading supplies based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Dillon got into the Minigun business starting in 1990, when they procured many worn-out miniguns for repair from a foreign customer.
In 1997, the company began selling subassemblies to the U.S. Army. Dillon then got into the Minigun business with a vengeance by redesigning most of the components. By 2003, they were producing completely redesigned units, which resulted in better reliability.
Their current M134D-H has a lifespan of 1.5 million rounds! Check out the video of their redesigned weapon mounted on a company Huey helicopter firing tracer ammo in the Arizona desert. (link) They currently manufacture the USAF GAU 2B/A version, which is used primarily by the U.S. Army’s 160th SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment), the “Night Stalkers.”
For those of you itching to get behind a Minigun, head on over to Battlefield Vegas. They have the only Minigun available to the public in Las Vegas, and they’re only one block from the strip. For those who one at home, there are several Airsoft versions that might be an option.
Whether in .308 or airsoft, the Minigun is a blast to shoot!
Friedrich Seiltgen is a retired Patrol Officer with 20 years of service with the Orlando Police Department. He currently conducts training in Lone Wolf Terrorism, firearms, and law enforcement vehicle operations in Florida. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.